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J Adolesc Health. 2006 Jun;38(6):696-703.

Motivational factors associated with sports program participation in middle school students.

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  • 1Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.



The purposes of this study were 1) to identify gender-specific motivational factors associated with sports program participation and attrition in middle school students and 2) to examine the relationships among sports program participation, physical activity, and sedentary behavior in this age group.


Seventh and eighth grade students (N = 1692) completed a questionnaire to measure sports program participation and factors that may motivate continued participation in or attrition from sports. The psychometric properties of the participation and attrition scales were tested using gender-separate exploratory factor analysis. Analysis of variance (participation status*gender) was used to identify differences in motivational factor scores and physical activity variables.


Eighty percent of the students were recent participants (within the past year), 10% were former participants, and 10% had never participated. For boys, the participation factors were labeled (in order) competition, social benefits, and fitness. For girls, factor structures were slightly different than the boys, which loaded as; social + skill benefits, competition, and fitness. For both genders, lack of interest, coaching problems, and time barriers were identified as attrition factors. Recent sport participants reported more time in vigorous (p < .01), stretching (p = .03), and strengthening activities (p < .01) and less time watching television (p < .01).


Gender-specific motivational factors exist for middle school youth; boys are more attracted to the competitive aspects of sports whereas girls are more motivated by the social opportunities that sports provide. Boys and girls who participate in sports are more physically active, so it is important to develop programs that children want to participate in and maximize retention.

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